So your eye has discharge in the corners when you wake up, and you’re wondering what that sticky goop in eyes is. You may even find your eyes stuck together after sleeping and be concerned about what it means. Some people call this sleep, eye gunk, eye pus or eye goop, but it can be a little frightening no matter what you call it. Here’s what to know about waking up with “sleep” in your eyes, and when discharge is a dangerous thing.
Can you wipe it away?
If you wake up in the morning and you find some cream-colored sticky goop in eyes, try wiping it away with a warm washcloth. If it wipes away easily, it’s most likely rheum (the correct name for this type of discharge) that has collected during the night. If so, it’s nothing to worry about.
This happens because you’re not blinking as you sleep. So the mucus that your blinking would normally clear away can pool in the corner of your eyes instead. Alternately, the rheum could be your eye’s response to an irritant that has gotten in it.
If you can’t wipe this discharge away, or you can but it immediately comes back, this may signal something else that’s more problematic. And if the discharge is yellow or green, instead of cream-colored, there’s a good chance it’s a bacterial infection.
Other causes of discharge
If it’s not rheum, here are a few of the most common other issues the goop may be signaling:
- Conjunctivitis (pinkeye). This is inflammation that is usually caused by a virus, but it could also be bacterial.
- Blocked tear duct. If your tear duct is blocked, your tears won’t have an exit so they may pool and create discharge.
- Dry eye. If your natural tears aren’t balanced, your eyes usually rely on “backup tears” for moisture. These often have too much mucus in them and may cause goop.
So if you’ve awakened with cream-colored “sleep” in your eyes that can be wiped away, you and your eyes are most likely fine. But if you see green or yellow coloring, or the goop won’t stay away, it’s best to visit an eye doctor for a consultation. Contact us to schedule an eye exam.